Indian Railways has embarked on a major overhaul of departmental functions by restructuring the railway board.
The exercise will start with unification of various railway cadres in a hope to align them according to business lines with organisational goals as opposed to departmental goals.
“We are planning to send a Cabinet note regarding the merger for cadres for fresh recruitment in the next two months. Once the Cabinet approves this, recruitment for all Group A railway services would be merged from next year. After that we would also work on rationalisation of cadres by combining other existing cadres based on functional similarities and synergies. But that can take up to six-eight months,” a senior railway official told FE
“A departmental orientation, absence of cross-functional collaboration and lack of business focus have held back Indian Railways from realising the commanding heights that it is capable of achieving. The solution to this lies in reorienting the working of the organisation towards a common corporate objective,” Union minister for railways Suresh Prabhu said in February while unveiling the railway budget.
The Bibek Debroy committee, in its report last year, had noted that its overly centralised structure and departmentalisation had adversely affected the working culture in railways, leading to actions and decisions based on narrow departmental goals. “This committee strongly recommends reduction in the number of Group A services and also suggests two points for this. One option is the amalgamation of all existing services into a single unified railways service. The second option is that Indian Railways should consolidate and merge the existing eight organised Group A services preferably into two services,” it said.
“The biggest issue Indian Railways faces is lack of cross-functional collaboration and having a business mindset. The issue of absence of cross-functional collaboration is evident from the lack of progress in all areas that require two or three departments to come together and deliver. This lack of collaboration comes from the fact that there are more than eight cadre/services of officers in railways and they perceive each decision from a mindset that would the decision benefit the cadre or not? Hence, unified cadre is required,” the railway official quoted above said.
“Unification would not eliminate board members, rather it would help rechristen board members along business lines, for eg, infrastructure, rolling stock, manufacturing, finance, HR&IT, operations,” he added.
“Because of departmentalisation the goals of different departments are lopsided. As restructuring will be a one-time exercise, it should be done very carefully keeping in mind the overall direction. There would be short-term pain, but if the exercise is done with prudence, it will help improve efficiency,” Abhay Krishna Agarwal, partner, infrastructure & PPP at E&Y, told FE.